The World War II aircraft carrier Independence has been found sunken, but amazingly intact, 30 miles off the northern coast of California near the Farallon Islands. A video by a remote-controlled submarine showed the vessel sitting upright with a plane still in the hangar. This discovery was part of a mission by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to locate nearly 300 shipwrecks near San Francisco by the Golden Gate Bridge.
Independence was an aircraft carrier which operated during World War II, primarily in the western and middle parts of the Pacific Ocean, between 1943 until the end of the war in 1945. After World War II ended, the ship, in 1946, continued to be used as part of a 90-vessel target fleet for an atomic-bomb-testing project known as Bikini Atoll. After the tests, in which the ship sustained a lot of damage, Independence returned to the U.S., where it was stationed at Hunters Point Naval Shipyard in San Francisco, and used for decontamination studies. In 1951, the ship was retired and towed out to sea for scuttling, where it remained until it was discovered 64 years later.
NOAA over the past two years has been working extensively on its mission to discover retired World War II vessels located in the National Marine Sanctuary in the Gulf of the Farallones, using the autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), Echo Ranger. An AUV is similar to a miniature submarine and is controlled remotely. Boeing partnered up with the agency in order to provide the technology, in which it used a device known as an echoscope to scan the area and produce 3D imaging. With this, it was able to discover vessels at the floor of the sea, and most recently came across the World War II aircraft carrier, sunken deepest out of all the shipwrecks, and still amazingly intact.
The AUV traveled above the World War II-era shipwreck at a distance of around 150 feet as it surveyed the entire perimeter, finding the hull to be nearly intact, as well as the flight deck, with a few holes near the hangars, where the aircraft were stationed. Its Echoscope created 3D maps of the area around the ship showing the underwater topography of the area around the Gulf of the Farallones Marine Sanctuary.
The sanctuary, nearly 3,300 square miles in area, is located near the Golden Gate Bridge and is home to a variety of wildlife, including great white sharks, whales, and large seabirds. This area is one of many unknown areas which NOAA is exploring in order to discover not only vessels from World War II in order to evaluate them, but other resources as well in order to gain knowledge of environmental changes.
Up until the discovery of the sunken World War II aircraft carrier, which was found amazingly intact, its location was kept a secret. The Navy had sent it the ship this far out in order to prevent contaminating the local population, however, since it had been 2,600 feet under the surface, its contamination did not pose much danger to society. Scientists, after examining the ship, reported that there was no increase in radiation.
By Bill Ades